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LDPs Regional Summary

North West England

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 136 main routes / 10539 miles - 46 waymarked / 4197 miles

Areas: Cheshire, Isle of Man, Lancashire (including unitaries), Greater Manchester, Merseyside (unitaries), Shropshire, Staffordshire

National Park: Peak District (part)

Principal AONBs: Shropshire Hills, Cannock Chase, Forest of Bowland

World Heritage Sites: Ironbridge Gorge, Liverpool - Maritime Mercantile City

European Long Distance Paths (E-Routes): E2 variants Dover - Stranraer; and E8.

National Walking Trails (England): Offa's Dyke Path (part), Pennine Bridleway (part), Pennine Way (part)

Resident population: 7.75 million

Regional Trails Summary - North West England

In this region we cover landscapes as contrasting as the often-remote moorlands of the Pennine fringes - traversed by the Pennine Way and the Bridleway National Trails, some extensive coastal dunes, and major estuaries, home of much birdlife. Along the Mersey valley are the industrial and commercial areas of Merseyside and Greater Manchester, where the trail originators have provides interesting urban and waterside walking as well as paths in secret countryside, not far from populated areas. Offshore is the scenic Isle of Man.

South of the Mersey, this is a largely land-locked region apart from stretches of the wide estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee on either side of the Wirral, but with a variety of attractive landscapes for the walker. The sandstone ridge of Cheshire crosses the elevated Cheshire Plain. There are the gritstone edges of the Peak District's western fringes, where the limits of the Peak District - the South West Peak - extends into Cheshire and Staffordshire with its moorlands and isolated gritstone ridges. Close to the Welsh border the Shropshire Hills and intervening valleys provide some excellent walking. There is much industrial history, accessed by trails, with the birthplace of the canal system here in the Bridgewater Canal and the world's first iron bridge at Ironbridge, celebrated in a World Heritage Site.

The Merseyside and Lancashire coastlines, although also much developed with resorts and for residential commuter use, offer some fine walking, including at England's largest undeveloped dune system near Formby. Further north are the vast sandflats of Morecambe Bay exposed by the tides, with views across to the distant Lakeland fells. For those seeking challenging walking, there are fine moorlands on the Pennine fringes and several other upland masses apart from these Pennine borders: a number of the area's Anytime Challenges are set on these moors. The Anglezarke and Turton Moors lie north of Bolton, and near Clitheroe is the whaleback ridge of Pendle Hill, topped by resistant Millstone Grit sandstone. North across the broad valley of the Ribble and its tributaries are the larger moorland masses of the Forest of Bowland also with hard Grit cores. Gentler lowland walks are provided on the Ribble and the many other rivers and on canals. Several other rivers run off the Bowland moors, to the south the Hodder, to the north the Wenning and the Hindburn, tributaries of the Lune, and to the west the Wyre and Calder

Walkers know that the hills of Shropshire can provide a strenuous day out with fine views. Here the five main ranges run generally south-west to north-east. Starting in the west they begin with Stiperstones, moving east through The Long Mynd, the Caradoc Hills, Wenlock Edge (these are separated from The Wrekin by the Severn) and the Clee Hills, with the main summits of Titterstone Clee and Brown Clee. Several routes visit these hills: The Jack Mytton Way follows Wenlock Edge and climbs the Long Mynd, the Shropshire Way includes Wenlock Edge, the Wrekin, and also the Clee Hills, the latter being the theme of the Clee Climber challenge walk. The Shropshire Cakes and Ale Trail visits Titterstone Clee, Wenlock Edge, Stiperstones and The Long Mynd. In the borderlands to the south, Offa's Dyke Path traverses the lower Clun hills.

The region's geology and its landforms are the themes of many other routes. The Gritstone Trail follows the elevated gritstone edges on the Peak District's western fringe, with views both to its higher hills and the Cheshire Plain. The partly urban, mostly rural, Mersey Valley Timberland Trail follows the northern sandstone edge of the Cheshire Plain and descends to the Mersey valley itself, with sections along the Bridgewater Canal. The Sandstone Trail follows the sandstone ridge of central Cheshire that forms the county's backbone. The Cown Edge Way on the eastern fringes of Manchester includes this 'edge'. The Staffordshire Way traverses the county, and not only follows several more edges, but also travels along canals and in the river valleys of the Churnet and Dove. The Geopark Way, whose theme is geology, starts its long journey through geological time in Bridgenorth, then goes south to the Abberley and Malvern Hills Global Geopark.

The region's river valleys provide the theme for the Bollin Valley Way, Etherow - Goyt Valley Way and the Irwell Sculpture Trail, while the Medlock Valley Walk (no current publication) follows the river to its confluence with the Irwell. The Tame Valley Way traces this populous, but wooded, valley along both canalside and riverside paths while the Tameside Trail includes the Etherow, Tame and Medlock Valleys. The Manifold Way (one of the White Peak Trails) follows the Manifold valley through the Staffordshire Moorlands. The Wirral Shore Way follows the old coastline of Wirral, bordering the Dee Estuary. Further north, the river routes include the Hodder Way, Lune Valley Ramble and Lunesdale Walk, the Ribble Way (and Ribble villages are explores by Villages of the Valley), the Tidewater Way (Lune and Wenning) and the Wyre Way. The Ribble Valley arguably includes the centre of the British Isles, marked by the Centre of the Kingdom Walk.

Canal walks include: the Cheshire Ring Canal along six historic canals, including the Bridgewater Canal, Britain's first; the Llangollen Canal Walk; the Middlewich Challenge Walk; and the Trent & Mersey Canal Walk, that initially also takes the Bridgewater Canal, on its way to Derwents Mouth. Further north are the Lancashire Lakeland Link and the Lancaster Canal (also followed by the Lunesdale Walk). Walkers may use two major multi-user routes designed primarily for horse-riders, the Bishop Bennet Way and the Jack Mytton Way, Shropshire's long distance bridleway.

City, borough and and town circuits are provided by the Bolton Rotary Way Footpath, the Burnley Way, the Oldham Way, the Rochdale Way, the Rossendale Way and the West Craven Way. The Millennium Way - Staffordshire spans the width of the county. The three interlinked Telford and Wrekin Walks span urban open spaces and countryside, and include the Ironbridge Way, that visits the World Heritage Site. There is good walking in and near urban areas. The Trans Pennine Trail provides interesting routes across developed Merseyside, with an option to visit the City of Liverpool and its fine waterfront, now recognised in a World Heritage Site, then finally taking the shoreline to Southport. The Witton Weavers Way network to the west of Blackburn and Darwen includes Jumbles Reservoir.

There are routes providing county traverses and longer distance links. The lengthy Shropshire Way makes a county circuit visiting many of its notable hills. The Mortimer Trail sets off south from Ludlow into Herefordshire. The Newcastle Way (Staffordshire) traverses north-west Staffordshire to link the Staffordshire Way at Mow Cop with the Shropshire Union Canal. The North Cheshire Way heads across from the Wirral to the Peak District. The South Cheshire Way links the Sandstone Trail and Staffordshire Way. The Maelor Way is a useful route linking several others, such as the Sandstone Trail and Offa's Dyke Path.

A number of long routes start from, or extend into, the region. The Heart of England Way starts its 100-mile journey in Staffordshire, heads south for Cannock Chase and the Arden countryside, and ends in the Cotswolds. The Midshires Way links the Ridgeway National Trail with the Trans Pennine Trail, crossing the shires of Middle England and going through the Goyt Valley, to reach its end at Stockport. The Trans Pennine Trail traverses along the Mersey valley, often close to the river, on its journey between the coasts. Paul Hannon's Trans Pennine Way is a long distance link between the Forest of Bowland and Nidderdale AONBs and Brian Smailes' Lancashire Trail joins St Helens and the Pennine Way via Pendle Hill.

The Hope House Way is a 335-mile charity route, extending into Wales, ranging widely over areas served by a Children's Respite Hospice. Local personalities are recognised in the Simon Evans Way, created to remember Cleobury Mortimer's postman writer, and taking in the River Rea valley in the South Shropshire countryside. The urban Fred Perry Way visits a sportsman's roots in Stockport in the Bollin Valley. Past literary figures are represented in the Bronte Way, linking Bronte sites across the Pennines, and the short Tolkien Trail off the Ribble Way marks a workplace of the author of 'Lord of the Rings'.

Some 37 enthusiasts' routes across the region come from twenty route developers. John Merrill, who was based in the Peak District, leads the way with eight, each with interesting features or presenting a challenge. They include: the Llangollen Canal Walk; Middlewich Challenge Walk; the Salter's Way that follows an old salt track across lowland Cheshire; the Staffordshire Moorlands Challenge Walk; the Sweet Pea Challenge Walk that heads from Wem, the birthplace of the sweet pea; the Three Counties Challenge Walk that visits Cheshire, Staffordshire's 'The Roaches', and Derbyshire via Peak District tops; and the Trent & Mersey Canal Walk.

Other promoters include Eric Perks who provides the Applecake Hill 20 (a Shropshire charity route) and David Irons has the Clee Climber in Shropshire's Clee Hills. Four routes explore the area of Saddleworth Moors, west of Manchester on the fringes of the Dark Peak: Carole Engel has three - the New Five Trig Points Walk; Saddleworth Five Trig Points Walk; the Ten Reservoirs Walk that makes a watery circuit; and Sam Taylor has the fourth, the Saddleworth Skyline.

The historic Pioneers Round (Rochdale Pioneers Museum) was devised to mark the Co-operative Movement's 150th anniversary: it starts from Rochdale. The Salt & Sails Trail (David Burkhill) traces the Weaver Navigation. The Spanners Round (Norman Thomas) links six reservoirs, and there are two routes from the LDWA East Lancashire Group - the Three Towers Circuit join the towers of Peel, Rivington and Darwen, and the Two Crosses Circuit includes both a Roman and Pilgrim's Cross.

North of Manchester the Four Pikes Hike (Norman Thomas) from Horwich visits separate major regional tops, and his Ramsbottom Round includes the Irwell valley. Tony Wimbush provides the Hebden Valleys Heritage Trek. Hyndburn Ramblers offer the Hyndburn Clog near Accrington. The Anglezarke Moors are visited by the Anglezarke Amble (LDWA West Lancs) and Anglezarke Anguish (Norman Thomas). The Pendle and Ribble area has the Pendle and Ribble Round (Derek Magnall) and Witches Way (Jim Ashton). RA Clitheroe provides the Clitheroe 60K. Several routes cover the Forest of Bowland area: John Merrill's eighth is the Forest of Bowland Challenge Walk; LDWA West Lancs has the Heart of Bowland Walk; and David Johnson has the North Bowland Traverse.

Offshore, the Isle of Man offers a long coastline and some impressive moorland scenery inland, rising to over 2000ft (621m) on Snaefell. The main promoted trail is the coastal path, the Raad ny Foillan in Manx or Way of the Gull created for the Island's 'Heritage Year' celebrations in 1986. Three other significant Manx walking trails cross the island, the Millennium Way - Isle of Man - celebrates the Manx Millennium in 1979 and covers the western slopes of Snaefell, the Herring Road (Bayr ny Skeddan in Manx) is an old fishermens' route from Castletown that visits the Round Table, and the Heritage Trail uses the old Douglas to Peel railway from east to west, parallel to the TT course.